Converting a ‘citadel of evil’: The ministry that’s changing California’s prisons

Originally published in CBN News

Serving Califronia
Serving California prison ministry (PHOTO:

On average, between 54 and 70% of California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) parolees are sent back to prison within three years. Most are imprisoned again because of new criminal offenses.

A programme known as Serving California is working to change that.

“We have brought the The Urban Ministry Institute (TUMI) into the 24 prisons in the state of California, so we have about 800 men and women studying to get the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree in theology in a three and a half year program,” Phil Dunn, with Serving California, told CBN News. “And once they complete that program, they graduate.”

“It’s biblically-based moral rehabilitation, and the good part about it is it’s also peer-to-peer evangelism in prison,” he continued. “So what we’re trying to do is reverse the phenomenon of gangsterism inside a state prison.”

“And basically take that citadel of evil back for Jesus Christ,” he said.

Dunn says Serving California has produced dramatic results.

“We have tracked about 250 men and women that have been paroled out, and we provide services for them,” Dunn said. “We have like a Christian rehabilitation parole officer that we assign to our graduates that come out, and to date, our recidivism rate over a five-year period is about 7%.”

“So we’re seeing that this type of biblical, moral rehabilitation and support with those same types of biblical principles is successful, and that’s what we intend to take out to politicians and wardens and anywhere and everywhere we can to let them know that there’s something that really works,” he continued.

Serving California leaders hope their program can be used on a national scale to help prevent people from relapsing into criminal behaviour and reform the criminal justice system.

The Urban Ministry Institute is a Christian educational and personal character reformation program. TUMI curriculum includes 16 different courses in which inmates must complete 43 different books and related materials.

The studies have the goal of improving reading and writing skills, critical thinking, ethics, leadership and character development.

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